27 May 2018

Review: ROGUE LAWYER, John Grisham - audio book

  • Originally published: 20 October 2015
  • Author: John Grisham
  • Genre: Legal thriller
  • Publisher: Doubleday
  • Country: United States of America
  • Pages: 352 pp (Hardcover 1st edition)
  • narrator of audio version: Mark Deakin:
 Synopsis (author)

On the right side of the law. Sort of.

Sebastian Rudd is not your typical street lawyer. He works out of a customized bulletproof van, complete with Wi-Fi, a bar, a small fridge, fine leather chairs, a hidden gun compartment, and a heavily armed driver. He has no firm, no partners, no associates, and only one employee, his driver, who’s also his bodyguard, law clerk, confidant, and golf caddy. He lives alone in a small but extremely safe penthouse apartment, and his primary piece of furniture is a vintage pool table. He drinks small-batch bourbon and carries a gun.

Sebastian defends people other lawyers won’t go near: a drug-addled, tattooed kid rumored to be in a satanic cult, who is accused of molesting and murdering two little girls; a vicious crime lord on death row; a homeowner arrested for shooting at a SWAT team that mistakenly invaded his house.  Why these clients? Because he believes everyone is entitled to a fair trial, even if he, Sebastian, has to cheat to secure one. He hates injustice, doesn’t like insurance companies, banks, or big corporations; he distrusts all levels of government and laughs at the justice system’s notions of ethical behavior.

My Take

The structure of this book is virtually that of a series of episodes, or linked short stories, in Sebastian Rudd's life. 

Rudd's clients are often those whom other lawyers will not take, and sometimes they are not innocent. Rudd often attracts a lot of opposition, even becoming a target for those who despise his clients. 

The narration is excellent with Mark Deakin dramatising a number of voices.

My rating: 4.4

I've also read

25 May 2018

Review: THE SANS PAREIL MYSTERY, Karen Charlton

  • this edition published in 2015 by Thomas Mercer
  • ISBN 978-1503-947825
  • 322 pages
  • source: my local library
  • The Detective Lavender Mysteries #2
Synopsis (Amazon)

On a cold February night in Regency London, a dark curtain falls on the Sans Pareil Theatre following the death of April Clare, a promising young actress, whose body is found in mysterious circumstances.

Detective Stephen Lavender and his dependable deputy, Constable Woods, quickly discover that nothing is quite as it seems. As successive mysteries unfold, they soon realise that it is not only the actors from the Sans Pareil who are playing a part.

With the Napoleonic War looming dangerously across the Channel, this is a time of suspicion and treachery. Following the clues from the seedy back streets of Covent Garden up through the echelons of society, Lavender and Woods begin to fear that the case is much bigger than they’d dared imagine—and worse, that they are at risk of becoming mere players in a master criminal’s shadowy drama.

It will take all of Lavender’s skill and wit, and help from the beautiful Magdalena, to bring the mystery of the Sans Pareil Theatre to a dramatic conclusion in the final act.

My Take

The second in the Detective Lavender series, set in London in 1810, Lavender is the chief detective in the Bow Street Runners. The body of a young woman is found under the floor of a derelict house about to be demolished. She is identified by the pathologist who had seen her on stage at a local theatre.

Apart from the murder mystery, the story gives interesting insights into Regency London. The Napoleonic Wars are not going well and London is full of foreigners such as Spanish that have fled from the invaders and French spies and those who who have fled from Bonaparte's regime. William, Duke of Clarence, who lives with an actress, is one of the circle of those who patronise the Sans Pareil theatre. (From the early 1790s until 1811, William lived with his mistress, the actress Dorothy Jordan. They had 10 children who took the surname Fitzclarence). Later he becomes William IV, married to Queen Adelaide. Ironically, in view of the 10 earlier children, their marriage is childless.

Lavender himself is very friendly with a Spanish widow. She is also a Catholic in a largely Protestant England.

The story becomes a tale of espionage when a coded document is discovered among the dead actress' papers.

This was one of those books that could have done with much better proof reading. The "typos" were made more noticeable by an earlier borrower who had gone through with a pencil striking words out and indicating omissions. Some errors were obviously caused by the use of an auto-correcter where the wrong version of a word had been accepted. All would have been funny if it hadn't become so annoying.

My rating: 4.3

About the author
Karen Charlton, a writer of mysteries, writes historical crime fiction, set in Regency England.

The Detective Lavender Mysteries, published by Thomas & Mercer, are the fictional adventures of Stephen Lavender, who was a real-life Principal Officer with the Bow Street Police Office in London. 

By the early 19th century, Principal officers had a variety of different and important roles although they were still nicknamed 'Bow Street Runners' as if they were messenger boys. Apart from supporting their colleagues solve crime in the capital, they were often sent out to help magistrates in the provinces with difficult cases. They also took part in undercover work in periods of insurrection, for example, during the Luddite riots in the Midlands and were available to hire by wealthy landowners.

They were Britain's earliest private detectives and were famous throughout London. They were the only policemen allowed into Buckingham House (the forerunner of the palace) and did security work for the Bank of England. On some occasions, they were even sent abroad to help with crimes and criminals who had spilled out onto the continent. 

Where my reading is heading

My life is dominated by lists, some of them a bit incomplete

But anyway here is some of the crime fiction that I have my sights set on for the next few weeks

TBRN - To Be Read Next - lists to give me direction, but I often ignore them :-)

    • FAR FROM TRUE, Linwood Barclay
    • THE TWENTY-THREE, Linwood Barclay
    • BLUE LIGHT YOKOHAMA, Nicolas Obregon
  • Book Group
    • DARK PINES, Will Dean
    • TIME IS A KILLER, Michel Bussi
    • IN THE SHADOW OF AGATHA CHRISTIE, Leslie S. Klinger (edit)
    • THE WITNESS, Nora Roberts
    • THE SANS PAREIL MYSTERY, Karen Charlton
    • THE GUILTY WIFE, Elle Croft
    • THE SIXTH WINDOW, Rachel Abbott
    • ROGUE LAWYER, John Grisham
  • e-books - Kindle & iPad
    • COME A LITTLE CLOSER, Rachel Abbott
    • KILLER'S ISLAND, Anna Jannson
    • ON THE LIP OF A LION, Roy Jenner
    • NOT WITHOUT RISK, Pete Trewin
    • THE MARMALADE MURDERS, Elizabeth J. Duncan

23 May 2018

50 Books Read

I'm steaming along quite well this year, and have reached one of those milestones: 50

I keep a full record of categories here
The main ones are
  • 2018 Aussie Author Reading Challenge: aiming for 20: currently 11
  • 2018 Australian Women Writers Challenge: aiming for 20. Currently 6
  • British Books Challenge 2018 currently 24
  • 2018 Ebook Reading Challenge currently 13
  • New to me authors - a personal challenge currently 17
  • Snagged at the Library currently: 24
  • Audio books: currently: 8
Looking at the ratings I've given them, you may well note that they range only from 5.0 to 4.0
To be truthful I've had a few DNFs that I have not recorded, but actually I've finished and rated over  90% of the books that I've started. I think that is because so many of the books that I tackle, I do so as a result of recommendations in book groups and by friends on line. So, in a sense, a certain amount of pre-selection has already taken place.

Here are the books

22 May 2018

Review: MACBETH, Jo Nesbo

  • Format: Kindle (Amazon)
  • File Size: 3476 KB
  • Print Length: 494 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1781090262
  • Publisher: Vintage Digital (April 5, 2018)
  • Publication Date: April 5, 2018
  • Sold by: PRH UK
  • Language: English
Synopsis  (Amazon)

He’s the best cop they’ve got.

When a drug bust turns into a bloodbath it’s up to Inspector Macbeth and his team to clean up the mess.
He’s also an ex-drug addict with a troubled past.

He’s rewarded for his success. Power. Money. Respect. They’re all within reach.

But a man like him won’t get to the top.

Plagued by hallucinations and paranoia, Macbeth starts to unravel. He’s convinced he won’t get what is rightfully his.
Unless he kills for it. 

My Take

Beware of spoilers!

Right from the beginning there is a dystopian feeling about this stand-alone novel unmistakeably related to the "Scottish play". In it you will meet modern versions of the main characters from the Shakespearian story, bearing in mind that his stage version was only that - a fictionalisation of what had happened in Scotland over 500 years earlier.

The setting of the novel seems rather obscure and vague, with the city not actually being named. although obviously in Scotland. The city is no longer a bustling metropolis. The drug trade and drug pushing has gone on too long. Addicts lie everywhere. There's a depiction of the struggle between opposing groups struggling for control of its underworld and drug trade: cops, bikies, corrupt politicians. The police force has been cleansed but there is rivalry between groups, at least one mole, and power struggles everywhere you look.

Nesbo has taken themes and plot lines from the Shakespearian play and put them in modern settings. This book won't be everyone's cup of tea, especially not those who are expecting a Nordic thriller. It will mean more to those who know the original play. Other reviews that I have read on Amazon have asked why Nesbo went down this path. I think he recognised a timeless story, but just to make sure he used the same names for many of the characters: Macbeth, Banquo, Malcolm, Lennox, Fleance etc., so we would recognise them too.

An interesting rather than enjoyable novel, springing from the sort of thoughts you have after seeing the Scottish play and wondering whether it has modern relevance. I think Nesbo proves that it does.

My rating: 4.3

I've also read
4.7, THE BAT
5.0, THE SON

15 May 2018

Review: RUSH OF BLOOD, Mark Billingam

  • this large print edition published by W F Howes Ltd 2012
  • ISBN 978-1-47120-637-5
  • 518 pages
  • source: my local library
Synopsis (Fantastic Fiction)

Perfect strangers. A perfect holiday. The perfect murder...

Three couples meet around the pool on their Florida holiday and become fast friends. But on their last night, their perfect holiday takes a tragic twist: the teenage daughter of another holidaymaker goes missing, and her body is later found floating in the mangroves. When the shocked couples return home, they remain in contact, and over the course of three increasingly fraught dinner parties they come to know one another better. But they don't always like what they find: buried beneath these apparently normal exteriors are some dark secrets, hidden kinks, ugly vices... Then, a second girl goes missing. Could it be that one of these six has a secret far darker than anybody can imagine? A brilliantly plotted, utterly gripping thriller about the danger of making friends on holiday.

My take

3 couples: Angie and Barry, Sue and Ed, Marina and Dave, meet at a Florida resort, and on their last day at the hotel the intellectually challenged daughter of another holiday maker goes missing. The three British couples are questioned about their whereabouts at the time the girl went missing, and nothing seems suspicious and they are allowed to fly home.

The structure of the book is interesting: emails arranging dinner parties once they are home, chapters exploring how each couple happened to take that holiday along with other details of their marriages, interspersed with the occasional chapter in the voice of the murderer.

At their first meeting back in London the conversation inevitably turns to whether the missing girl in Florida has been found. Back in Florida We are introduced to Detective Jeffrey Gardner, in charge of the investigation. Six weeks after she disappeared the body of the young girl is found, and in London the Lewisham CID room gets a request from the Florida detective for follow up interviews of the British tourists. The task is handed to Trainee Detective Constable Jenny Quinlan who is determined to make her mark. And then a second girl goes missing, but this time in Jenny's territory.

This was a really well plotted story. It had me asking who the murderer was- trying to identify him or her from those very short chapters that kept popping up.

As it turned I was very nearly right, but the author inserted a couple of real twists at the end.

My rating: 4.5 

I've also read

11 May 2018

Review: THE VANISHING BOX, Elly Griffiths

  • this edition published by Quercus (UK) 2017
  • ISBN 978-1-78429-700-8
  • 351 pages
  • #4 in the Stephens & Mephisto Mystery series
  • source: my local library
Synopsis (publisher)

The fourth Stephens and Mephisto mystery from the author of the bestselling Dr Ruth Galloway series, for fans of Agatha Christie and Anthony Horowitz
'Vivid description, masterful sleight of hand and a lightness of touch add up to a terrific read for aficionados and newcomers alike' Guardian

Winter, 1953. A young flower seller is found dead in her room at a Brighton boarding-house, posed with chilling perfection into a recreation of the death of Lady Jane Grey. This is a killer unlike any DI Edgar Stephens has encountered before.

Across the city at the Hippodrome theatre, Max Mephisto is top of the bill in a double act with his daughter Ruby. Tarnishing the experience, though, is one of the other acts: a seedy 'living tableaux' show where barely-dressed women strike poses from famous historical scenes. Is the resemblance to the murder scene pure coincidence, or is life imitating art?

When another death occurs - this time within the troupe itself - Max once again finds himself involved in one of Edgar's cases, and a threat that will come closer to home than anything before. What should be just a job is about to become personal.

My take

When people ask me about the best way to tackle a book that is part of a series, I always tell them to start with the first book. Well, this time I didn't take my own advice and I think I paid the penalty.

One of the benefits of reading a series from the first book is that you meet the characters as they are introduced and read of the events in their lives, and then follow the minor plots as they develop. There were references to previous events in THE VANISHING BOX about which I had no clue and could only surmise what had happened. Similarly I was coming to the main characters cold and had little idea, apart from hints dropped in the book, about the connections between them. As the story progressed those omissions mattered less, but the end result was that it took me a while to warm to the main characters and to begin to enjoy the story.

I like the time frame of 1953. World War II is an event that connects the investigative duo of DCI Edgar Stephens and Max Mephisto the magician, and this is the time of variety halls and boarding houses. The world has an old-fashioned feel about it, of a morality not quite the same as ours. Policewomen who actively participate in investigations of murder are new, and there is a feeling in the force that they need to be protected from gruesome sights and are best as providing comfort in distressing situations.

In the long run it was an entertaining read but for most of the time I had little idea who the murderer was, so the final explanation came as a bit of a surprise.

My rating: 4.4

About the author
WINNER OF THE 2016 CWA DAGGER IN THE LIBRARY. Elly Griffiths was born in London. She worked in publishing before becoming a full-time writer. Her bestselling series of Dr Ruth Galloway novels, featuring a forensic archaeologist, are set in Norfolk. The series has won the CWA Dagger in the Library, and has been shortlisted three times for the Theakston's Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year. Her Stephens and Mephisto series is based in 1950s Brighton. She lives near Brighton with her husband, an archaeologist, and their two children.


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